Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Altered Book on the Japan Tsunami

When a friend suggested I make an altered book about the Tohoku tsunami, I wondered whether I was called.... Then everything started coming. 

I went to the local thrift store & found the perfect book to alter: Stepping Stones to Japanese Floral Art by Rachel E. Carr. The binding of this 1960 edition of her 1955 book resembles a hand-made book. It beautifully illustrates one of the most graceful & delicate aspects of Japanese culture, dramatically contrasting with the tragic disaster of the tsunami.

Sebastopol Gallery is having its first concert: Hale Thatcher, Pete Tomack & Sahar Pinkham playing a lovely benefit for Japanese tsunami relief. In looking for an image for their publicity, I found this charcoal drawing of out-of-control water, which I used on the cover & title pages.

Trout Black, who is reading his moving poem, "This Didn't Happen Over There," at the concert, not only gave me permission to repeat it in the book, but also sent this one:

After the Tsunami

The cherry trees
near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
are blossoming now.

No one comes 
to see them.

They are lonely.

What else is there to say? But in altering the book, I had to go on to say a lot. I painted images of the tsunami rearing up over towns. I made charts of nuclear waste, Japanese reactor sites, threatened wildlife. I wrote accounts of kindnesses, a friend's first-hand experience of the tsunami as it traveled to Moro Bay, the Dineh legend of ancient warnings to leave uranium in the ground, the work of Professor Katsuhiko Ishibashi, the loss of 110,000 Laysan Albatross chicks. I made windows of pressed flowers, weaving, netting.  I wrote my own poem:

undersea great mountains crack
out of groaning rocks
death pours wide circles

I also interspersed chants to Kanzeon & Amida Buddha, & images of Buddhas & Bodhisattvas. I ended with an origami crane, these words, & a linocut:

All over the world
   people pray 
        for the Japanese
& for themselves
          each other

& for the radioactive waters
             & the fish in the sea

All over the world
       we pray with
       the fish in
              the sea....